Universal, Inherent Dignity
Paul offers a theological and solid foundation for human dignity and human flourishing that is inherent, universal, and indestructible by any evaluation, whether it be race, religion, gender, nationality, class, education, or social position. We now believe the reason that this one man enjoyed such immense success in such a short time is that he gave human dignity back to a world that had largely lost it. One more god in Greece and Asia Minor would have meant little, but when Paul told shamed populations they were temples of the divine, this made hearts burn with desire and hope.
The Acts account of Pentecost goes out of its way to emphasize that people from all over the world heard the Galileans speaking in the pilgrims' individual languages after the descent of heavenly fire and wind (see Acts 2:1-11). At least 17 nations or groups are listed and "about three thousand persons" (Acts) were baptized and received the Holy Spirit that day. The theological message is clear: God's favor is both totally democratic and unmerited. It was meant to be the end of all tribal, ethnic, and elitist religion. But it did not last long; by 313 A.D. Christianity began aligning with empires and emperors in both Constantinople and Rome.
One of the reasons Paul's teachings had so much influence in Asia Minor was that he restored human dignity at a time when perhaps four out of five people were slaves, women were considered the property of men, temple prostitution was a form of worship, and oppression and injustice toward the poor and the outsider were the universal norm. Human rights did not yet exist. Into this corrupt and corrupting empire Paul shouts, "One and the same Spirit was given to us all to drink!" (1 Corinthians). He utterly levels the playing field: "You, all of you, are sons and daughters of God in Christ Jesus . . . where there is no distinction between male or female, Greek or Jew, slave or free, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (see Galatians 3:26-28).
This is quite amazing, considering the divided world at the time! In Paul's estimation, the old world was forever gone and a new world was born. This was surely impossible and frightening to some people, but utterly attractive and hopeful to the majority who had no dignity whatsoever. Who does not want to be told they are worthy and good? Who does not want their social shame taken away? No longer was the human body a cheap thing, degraded by slavery, or sexual, verbal, and physical abuse. Paul is saying, "You are the very temple of God." Scholars now believe this is Paul's supreme and organizing idea. Such an unexpected affirmation of human dignity began to turn the whole Roman Empire around.
I was asked this morning what this last paragraph of Richard Rohr means. I answered with the following: Rohr:
"No longer was the human body a cheap thing, degraded by slavery, or sexual, verbal, and physical abuse. Paul is saying, "You are the very temple of God." Scholars now believe this is Paul's supreme and organizing idea. Such an unexpected affirmation of human dignity began to turn the whole Roman Empire around.
Paul's teaching on sexuality (1 Corinthians 6:15-20) is not the moralistic message that many of us have come to expect from Christianity. Paul is just saying that your body has dignity, so preserve it and defend it."
It seems Rohr is talking the "theology of the body" where the body is not reducible to matter (as in Greek Aristotle and Plato) but the person herself. As a result of the use of Greek philosophy, the personality was seen to be identified with the soul or form of matter which was identified with the body. The body was not seen to be personal but the material substrate of it, and therefore not to be treated personally [i.e. with the freedom and autonomy of self-determination]. The huge change is the reality of Christ where the matter ([the egg of the Virgin] and soul: + faculties of intellect and will) are "assumed" by the Trinitarian Son of the Father. Therefore, in Christ, there is the uncreated divine Person who assumes the created body and soul (senses, intellect and will) into Himself not only without damaging them but exalting them. Therefore, in Christianity (Paul) the body has the dignity of the person. Christ rises from the dead. The sacraments, above all the Eucharist, is Christ's very Self as Son of the Father. Hence, the body must be treated with respect reserved for the person. The body speaks the language of the person - i.e. self-gift [therefore, no contraception, no invitro, no surrrogate motherhood, etc.]. Human sexuality must be the giving of the self - donation and reception - of two heterogenous persons - therefore, complete.
The truth of today's feast rests on the Eucharist as Body of Christ being His Person. I copy parts of the "Eucharistic Miracle of Buenos Aires" to illustrate the reality:
Eucharistic Miracle in Buenos Aires
Author: ks. Mieczysław Piotrowski TChr
The most recent Eucharistic miracle recognized by the Church authorities occurred in 1996 in the capital of Argentina–Buenos Aires.
A consecrated Host becomes flesh and blood
At seven o’clock in the evening on August 18, 1996, Fr. Alejandro Pezet was saying Holy Mass at a Catholic church in the commercial center of Buenos Aires. As he was finishing distributing Holy Communion, a woman came up to tell him that she had found a discarded host on a candleholder at the back of the church. On going to the spot indicated, Fr. Alejandro saw the defiled Host. Since he was unable to consume it, he placed it in a container of water and put it away in the tabernacle of the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.
On Monday, August 26, upon opening the tabernacle, he saw to his amazement that the Host had turned into a bloody substance. He informed Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who gave instructions that the Host be professionally photographed. The photos were taken on September 6. They clearly show that the Host, which had become a fragment of bloodied flesh, had grown significantly in size. For several years the Host remained in the tabernacle, the whole affair being kept a strict secret. Since the Host suffered no visible decomposition, Cardinal Bergoglio decided to have it scientifically analyzed.
On October 5, 1999, in the presence of the Cardinal’s representatives, Dr. Castanon took a sample of the bloody fragment and sent it to New York for analysis. Since he did not wish to prejudice the study, he purposely did not inform the team of scientists of its provenance. One of these scientists was Dr. Frederic Zugiba, the well-known cardiologist and forensic pathologist. He determined that the analyzed substance was real flesh and blood containing human DNA. Zugiba testified that, “the analyzed material is a fragment of the heart muscle found in the wall of the left ventricle close to the valves. This muscle is responsible for the contraction of the heart. It should be borne in mind that the left cardiac ventricle pumps blood to all parts of the body. The heart muscle is in an inflammatory condition and contains a large number of white blood cells. This indicates that the heart was alive at the time the sample was taken. It is my contention that the heart was alive, since white blood cells die outside a living organism. They require a living organism to sustain them. Thus, their presence indicates that the heart was alive when the sample was taken. What is more, these white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, which further indicates that the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest.”
Two Australians, journalist Mike Willesee and lawyer Ron Tesoriero, witnessed these tests. Knowing where sample had come from, they were dumbfounded by Dr. Zugiba’s testimony. Mike Willesee asked the scientist how long the white blood cells would have remained alive if they had come from a piece of human tissue, which had been kept in water. They would have ceased to exist in a matter of minutes, Dr. Zugiba replied. The journalist then told the doctor that the source of the sample had first been kept in ordinary water for a month and then for another three years in a container of distilled water; only then had the sample been taken for analysis. Dr. Zugiba’s was at a loss to account for this fact. There was no way of explaining it scientifically, he stated. Only then did Mike Willesee inform Dr. Zugiba that the analyzed sample came from a consecrated Host (white, unleavened bread) that had mysteriously turned into bloody human flesh. Amazed by this information, Dr. Zugiba replied, “How and why a consecrated Host would change its character and become living human flesh and blood will remain an inexplicable mystery to science—a mystery totally beyond her competence.”
Professional Bio of Dr. Frederick Zugiba:
He earned a Masters Degree from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in anatomy and histochemistry from the University of Chicago. After having seven children, he returned to school and obtained his M.D. degree from West Virginia University in 1968 and became Board Certified in Anatomic and Forensic Pathology. In 1969 he was appointed the first Chief Medical Examiner of Rockland County replacing the old coroner system. He served as Rockland's Chief Medical Examiner for 34 years retiring in 2003. During his tenure, the Rockland Medical Examiner's Office gained an international reputation in the field of forensic science and innovative techniques and inventions that are still in use throughout the world. Dr. Zugibe was also internationally lauded in the field of cardiovascular research and discovered several diseases that had never before been identified. He was a fellow in the American College of Cardiology and was Board Certified in Family Practice. He also had an active medical practice during his tenure as Medical Examiner, specializing in cardiology. He was an accomplished author and became world-renowned in connection with his scientific research on the Shroud of Turin and the mechanism and cause of death of Jesus appearing in numerous documentaries in connection with his research.